How Many Pixels Does It Take to Make a Good 4″6″ Print? Pixel Count Wars Revisited

Michael A. KRISS  

IEICE TRANSACTIONS on Fundamentals of Electronics, Communications and Computer Sciences   Vol.E95-A   No.8   pp.1224-1229
Publication Date: 2012/08/01
Online ISSN: 1745-1337
DOI: 10.1587/transfun.E95.A.1224
Print ISSN: 0916-8508
Type of Manuscript: INVITED PAPER (Special Section on Image Media Quality)
digital cameras,  sharpness,  exposure latitude,  photographic speed,  image quality,  

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Digital still cameras emerged following the introduction of the Sony Mavica analog prototype camera in 1981. These early cameras produced poor image quality and did not challenge film cameras for overall quality. By 1995 digital still cameras in expensive SLR formats had 6 mega-pixels and produced high quality images (with significant image processing). In 2005 significant improvement in image quality was apparent and lower prices for digital still cameras (DSCs) started a rapid decline in film usage and film camera sells. By 2010 film usage was mostly limited to professionals and the motion picture industry. The rise of DSCs was marked by a “pixel war” where the driving feature of the cameras was the pixel count where even moderate cost, ∼ $120, DSCs would have 14 mega-pixels. The improvement of CMOS technology pushed this trend of lower prices and higher pixel counts. Only the single lens reflex cameras had large sensors and large pixels. The drive for smaller pixels hurt the quality aspects of the final image (sharpness, noise, speed, and exposure latitude). Only today are camera manufactures starting to reverse their course and producing DSCs with larger sensors and pixels. This paper will explore why larger pixels and sensors are key to the future of DSCs.